Chris Mack’s Real Estate Insider – November 2023


Buying a duplex is a great strategy for first-time buyers

Hi All,

Last week we hosted an in-person class for buyers interested in learning how to buy their first duplex as an owner-occupant. A duplex is a property with two units (apartments).

Buying a duplex as an owner-occupant means you, the buyer, will live in one of the units as your primary residence. This is a strategy I personally used in 2015, when my sister and I partnered to buy a fixer-upper duplex in SE Portland. It works especially well for single buyers whose finances would be stretched by the large monthly payments on a single-family home. With a duplex, you have the rental income to offset the cost of your monthly payment, making that payment manageable.

Using a real-world example, here are the numbers on a recent duplex purchase by a first-time buyer using an FHA loan (a common loan type for first-time buyers):

    Purchase price: $525,000
    Down payment: 3.5% = $18,375
    Full loan amount: $515,490 (includes 1.75% FHA up-front mortgage insurance premium)
    Rate: 6.75% with 1 Point (APR 7.65%)

    Monthly payment, the 4 components:
  • Principal & interest: $3,343
  • Property taxes: $304
  • Insurance: $61
  • Mortgage insurance: $236

    Total monthly payment: $3,944

Actual rents: $2,200 x 1 = $2,200
Net monthly payment: $3,944 – $2,200 = $1,744

The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Portland right now is $1,707, which is right in line with the monthly payment. For single buyers who are looking to buy their first property in Portland and are willing to be creative, buying a duplex is an excellent strategy.

We’ll be hosting our next “How to buy your first duplex” class in person at our office on December 13th from 6:00–7:00 pm. If there’s anyone you know who might be interested, please feel free to have them reach out to me anytime, and I can give them the details.
I work with downsizers (helping people sell their large house and buy a condo; here’s a link to my downsizing website), first-time homebuyers, work relocations, and multi-family investors. If you or your friends/family have real estate questions, I’m easy to reach and always happy to chat.

My cell is 503-951-5476. Email works well, too. I’m at [email protected].

Thanks a bunch, and let’s talk soon,




A picture from our duplex class last month. We also had our friend, Mike Mair, who’s a mortgage broker, on hand to explain the financing/loan side of buying a duplex.